Thanks to the research of a graduate student in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University and funding from Bayer Environmental Science, the city of Wooster, OH now knows the true value of the trees that line its streets.
By "value" we don't simply mean trees' contribution to the ecosystem or the fact that they beautify landscapes. Rather, we mean trees' true dollar value.
In mid-2010, the graduate student, Alejandro Chiriboga, recorded tree attributes such as trunk circumference and leaf condition among more than 3,000 of Wooster's city-owned trees. Using Forest Service software, he then totaled the dollar value of the environmental services trees provide, including reducing pollution and carbon in the atmosphere.
Chiriboga's research concluded that, annually, the trees generate $270,153 in community services, including aesthetic benefits, energy conservation, stormwater control and carbon and air pollution reduction. Chiriboga's study found that most of Wooster's street trees are young and healthy, which means they will contribute environmentally--and therefore economically--to the city well into the future.
Things in nature have always seemed priceless. So this study raises an interesting question: Can you really put a dollar amount on them? Apparently, you can. The question now is, will this experiment stop at trees? Or will it extend to lawns, shrubs and plants on the landscape?
Will mowing a lawn be deemed a loss in dollars? Will planting a flower bed boost the value of a landscape? It's hard to say. But at the very least, the OSU study has given us something new and interesting to ponder.